Quinnipiac aims to spread respect

John Healy

There’s a common derogatory word that many students use every day and do not even realize it: the “r-word.”

The Quinnipiac chapter of Best Buddies and fraternity Pi Kappa Phi are co-sponsoring the third annual “Spread the Word to End the Word” event tonight. The nationwide movement aims to raise awareness for people to stop using the word “retarded” and replace it with “respect.”

The organizations have been handing out bracelets and getting students to sign a pledge promising not to use the r-word.

“The whole idea is to just have people think about it,” said sophomore Caroline Cadigan, chapter president of Quinnipiac Best Buddies. “Take a step back and have them ask ‘why am I using this word?’ Although it’s thrown around so much in everyday language, people don’t realize they’re saying it and do not realize it does hurt people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Best Buddies is an international nonprofit organization that helps develop friendships, leadership and integrate employment for those with the disability.

The Quinnipiac chapter, which is under the Community Action Project, makes friendships with college students with disabilities who live in the Greater New Haven and Hamden area, according to Cadigan. She has been a Best Buddies member for six years and is the co-chair of the “Spread the Word” event along with Lindsey Raffol.

Pi Kappa Phi has a national partnership with the Best Buddies program and are helping publicize the “Spread the Word” event on campus.

“It’s something we decided we wanted to show the campus and Best Buddies chapter on campus to support them and what they do,” said sophomore Pete Nikitas, philanthropy chair of Pi Kappa Phi.

Nikitas’ interest in the event stems from a personal connection tracing back to high school.

“In high school I was vice president of our special education program,” Nikitas said. “So when I found out about ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ it really hit me hard that it was something I could still be involved with and to spread the awareness throughout the entire school.”

Cadigan described the event as an “open mic night.” It will consist of performances and songs from students, as well as videos from the Quinnipiac Best Buddies chapter. Also one of the buddies will be there as a guest speaker, talking about the use of the r-word.

“This is one of my truly favorite events,” Cadigan said. “It truly advocates for people who can’t advocate for themselves, and spreading the word that the r-word is used every day. It just takes them a step back and say I shouldn’t be saying that, because it’s the same as using any other derogatory word in our language.”

Nikitas said he hopes the expected crowd will include more than just the Best Buddies and Pi Kappa Phi members.

“I want to see more than just our friends and people we’ve been acquainted with show up and truly understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” Nikitas said. “It’s going to be a nice, relaxing night, but also everyone’s going to be aware of what we’re trying to do.”